Czech Republic facing international arbitration for discrimination of company defending rights of the blind

Press release of A11Y LTD. from the 14th of October, 2014

Published in Czech Republic

PRAGUE – A11Y LTD., a company, specializing in complex solutions of help for the blind and visually impaired people, delivered a Notice of Arbitration to the Ministry of finance of the Czech Republic on the 10th of October, 2014. The company demands compensation of lost profits after the state has applied discriminatory actions against it, disclosed its know-how to its competitors and damaged its goodwill. The aim of these steps of the state was to eliminate the business activities of the company, that has been defending the rights of the blind and that has been trying to change their status in society using modern electronic compensation aids.

"The state does not want to fulfill its obligations that it is bound to by its own law," says Jan Buchal, CEO of A11Y LTD. and himself a blind person. "Our companies Foundation for the Blind, BRAILCOM,o.p.s. and A11Y LTD. have for more than 20 years been working for the benefit of the handicapped people (1, 2). With our work, services and products we strive to enable the handicapped to live life with dignity, to have the right conditions that motivate them to their own activity, to be able to become truly independent."

On the 1st of January, 2012 the law 329/2011 Coll. entered into force (3) in Czech republic. This law guarantees the severely visually handicapped people a right for state allowances for the so-called "special compensation aids". These aids are mainly based on computers and enable blind and severely visually impaired people to do such basic things as to read and write, to communicate, to find their way in cities, but also to study and to work. These aids are always designed and assembled individually, which requires a lot of expertise in the field. Moreover, they are sold as individual pieces in small quantities, so the cost of the aids is usually high. The law in Czech Republic therefore takes this situation into account and guarantees the blind and visually impaired people the right to obtain up to 350 000 CZK (~12 500 EUR) for a single compensation aid, at the same time, an individual applicant must not exceed a total sum of 800 000 CZK (~28 600 EUR) for all allowances combined in the course of five years.

According to this law, the company BRAILCOM,o.p.s., whose activities and know-how were later taken over by the A11Y LTD. company, started to supply high quality compensation aids to the blind and visually impaired people. The quality of these aids was beyond comparison in Czech Republic at that time. These aids have opened new possibilities to the visually handicapped and the A11Y LTD. company has soon gained a wide array of happy customers. Because these customers repeatedly suffered bad experience in dealing about the allowances with state offices, the company has started to also offer assistance to the visually handicapped people in applying for the state allowances granted to them by law. It was likely this matter that has triggered further events.

"The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the General Directorate of Labour Office of Czech Republic has made a series of steps, beginning in July 2013, targeted against A11Y LTD., that would lead to the destruction of its business," explains Mgr. Ondřej Sekanina, LL.M., the lawyer of the company. "We have documented a series of cases, where state officers have passed confidential information about the technical solutions of this company to its competitors, where the officers have been defaming it and where the officers have been trying to convince its customers not to buy its solutions and advised them to contact competitor companies instead," Sekanina continues to explain.

The General directorate of Labour Office of Czech Republic has at the same time issued several internal instructions for the state offices. The result was that the clients buying aids from A11Y LTD. received only such small allowances, much smaller than the legal limits, for which A11Y LTD. could not sell them aids. These procedures were applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner against the A11Y LTD. company.

"We have been trying for more than a year to constructively and intensely negotiate and explain. Our effort was in vain. The representatives of the state never wanted a real solution, but only to fulfill their selfish interests, that is to save money on the handicapped without regard for their rights," says Jan Buchal, the CEO of A11Y LTD.

The state offices have, for example, repeatedly denied the requested allowances for children, although this is against the relevant law. They have reasoned that the office is obliged to deal in the best interest of the child and that the best interest of the child is „economical handling of the public finance“. The offices have repeatedly used this reasoning to justify why the allowance granted to a handicapped child is much lower than the price of the necessary aid. Such children then, contrary to the guarantees given by the law, could not buy the needed aids or they had to buy them in an incomplete and unsatisfactory composition.

A11Y LTD. has repeatedly pointed out the systematic violation of the law to the General Directorate of the Labour Office and to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, but instead of rectification of the issues, the issues got even worse. The interventions against the legal rights of the handicapped as well as interventions targeted against the company defending them got even stronger.

This process has culminated in January 2014 when the spokeswoman of the General Directorate of Labour Office, Ms. Kateřina Beránková, has presented a false accusation of BRAILCOM,o.p.s. (implying also A11Y LTD.) in the prime-time boardcast on a state-owned Czech Television, saying that it overprices its aids and thus in effect steals money from the state.

After repeated failed attempts to reach rectification of the state, A11Y LTD. has decided to pursue the law through international arbitrage based on the agreement on the protection of investments between Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. The company requests compensation for lost profits, which then in turn it wants to use for further work on improving of the situation of visually handicapped. It also requests an apology from the state as well as rectification of the current distorted process of granting state allowances for compensation aids in Czech Republic. "We are looking forward for our endeavor to open a completely new way, that there will be a turnabout meaning the change of lives of the handicapped so that they will be able to work on themselves without undignified dependence on the healthy, to live in dignity and pride as any other citizen," explains CEO Jan Buchal (4).


1) Some notable activities of BRAILCOM,o.p.s. and A11Y LTD.

  • BRAILCOM,o.p.s. has developed and runs the electronic catalogue system Biblio (, which serves the largest Czech library for the blind (Knihovna a tiskárna pro nevidomé Karla Emanuela Macana) and also enables subscribes to directly listen to books in audio form.
  • BRAILCOM,o.p.s. has developed and runs the service Trafika (, which enables the blind and visually impaired in Czech Republic to read common newspapers and magazines as soon as they are published.
  • BRAILCOM,o.p.s. has developed and runs special interactive textbooks of European languages Eurochance (, designed to be accessible for the blind and visually impaired.
  • BRAILCOM,o.p.s. realized during the years 2010-2012 the project “Center of expert support for visually impaired”, in which it performed individual expert trainings of visually impaired students, their assistants and special teachers in using electronic compensation aids. It was the results of this extensive project have pointed out the pitiful state of the students’ equipment and their knowledges in this field and became the motivation for future design of own solutions, entry into the market and foundation of the company A11Y LTD.
  • A11Y LTD. (formerly BRAILCOM,o.p.s.) has been selling complex solutions of modern compensation aids for visually handicapped since 2012. Each solution is individually designed based on detailed consultation and diagnostics of each client. An important part of every solution is searching for concrete ways how to use the aid to overcome his/her handicap, professional configuration and thorough training in work with the aid (

2) Relations between BRAILCOM,o.p.s. and A11Y LTD.

BRAILCOM,o.p.s. has been working in Czech Republic as a non-profit company for nearly twenty years. A non-profit company cannot however target its activities on business mainly and thus when the number of orders for special aids had risen, its founder Jan Buchal created a business oriented company, which later overtook all business activities. Mr. Buchal has been planning extension of the business activities to other countries of the European Union and thus decided to establish the company in the United Kingdom.

3) Law 329/2011 Coll. "About allowances for people with disabilities"
(in Czech language)

4) Statement of CEO Jan Buchal about the arbitration between A11Y LTD. vs. Czech Republic